tv Meet the Press MSNBC May 13, 2012 11:00pm-12:00am PDT
this morning, a $2 billion blunder. the nation's biggest bank, jpmorgan, lost big on a risky trading bet. raising new questions and fears about whether wall street has changed at all since the financial collapse. how did this happen? and will it give new ammunition to washington regulators who want to change the way big banks work? this morning, my exclusive interview with the man at the center of the storm, the bank's ceo, jamie dimon, who also talks about the economy and the 2012 campaign. plus, reaction and prospective from andrew ross sorkin of "the new york times" and cnbc as well as senator carl levin who is spearheading
financial reform on capitol hill. then the gay marriage debate. it all started here last sunday with vice president biden. >> i am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marry men, women marry women, and heterosexual -- men and women marrying one another, are entitled to the same exact rights. >> as you know, within days, the president changed his own view, making history and headlines. the big questions now, has anything changed? and how will the president's support for gay marriage impact the presidential race? with us, chairman of the republican party, reince priebus. an analysis from our roundtable. msnbc's chris matthews. from "the washington post," jonathan capehart and columnist kathleen parker. democratic lieutenant governor of california, gavin newsom. from the american conservative union, al cardins. >> announcer: from nbc news in
washington, meet the per"meet t with david gregory. good morning. what a week it has been. one thing that is clear, before the vice president made his remarks on "meet the press" last sunday, same-sex marriage was not front and center in the presidential campaign. that's changed. governor romney talking about it yesterday at a commencement speech. the president talking about it a great deal. and certainly the vice president's remarks kick-started that conversation and there's been a lot of palace intrigue about whether the president was upset with what his vice president did. "saturday night live" gave it some pretty funny treatment in a skit last night. we'll talk about the laugh lines and do that with our roundtable a little bit later on in the hour. but here's what i think people are going to be talking about in the week ahead, and that is the coming clash between washington and wall street. why? well, you've seen the headlines this week that came from jpmorgan chase, the nation's biggest bank. it lost $2 billion in trading losses because of risky bets. the man at the very top, bank chairman and ceo, jamie dimon,
very powerful figure on wall street and beyond. often outspoken, no stranger to washington. he made the announcement about that loss on thursday afternoon, and after the markets closed on friday, he sat down with me in new york. a few weeks ago, you dismissed all of this as a, quote, tempest in a teapot. you've changed your view about this. how much worse will this get? >> first of all, i was dead wrong when i said that. i obviously didn't know, because i never would have said that. and one of the reasons it became public because we wanted to say, you know what, we told you something that was completely wrong a mere four weeks and we took a $2 billion loss and we made it clear it could get worse before it could get better. it could be volatile by $1 billion, possibly. i do want to put it in perspective. the company is going to earn a lot of money this quarter. so it's a very strong company. we made a terrible, egregious mistake, and almost no excuse for it. >> so how did this happen? there were reports about questions that were being raised about the kind of hedging that jpmorgan was doing. did you ignore warning signs about this? were you in denial about it?
did you just miss it? >> you know, i think somewhat -- first of all, there was one warning signal, if you look back from today, there were particular red flags. that particular red flag, we got very defensive and people started justifying everything we did. the better thing in life is to say, maybe you made a mistake. let's dig deep. the mistake had been brewing for a while. it wasn't just any one thing. >> the immediate question, the s.e.c. is looking into this, did the bank break any laws, did it violate any accounting rules or s.e.c. rules? >> so we've had audit, legal, risk, compliance, some of our best people look into all of that. we know we were sloppy, we know we were stupid. we know there was bad judgment. we don't know if any of that's true yet. of course, with regulators should look at something like that. that's their job. we're totally open with regulators and they will come to their own conclusions. but we intend to fix it, learn from it, and be a better company when we're done. >> in the simplest way you can, what was what you called the
screwup? what was the screwup? >> banks either make loans or invest the money in securities. we have a huge securities, the securities had an unrealized gain of $8 billion. but in how we manage that portfolio, we did lose $2 billion trading. in hindsight, we took too much risk. the strategy was badly vetted and badly monitored and it should have never happened. >> so here you are, jamie dimon. you've got a sterling reputation. why? because people say he knows how to manage risk better than anybody. you're known as the die who ably led jpmorgan chase through the worst financial collapse since the great depression. how does a guy like you make this mistake? >> you know, anyone in business knows you always make mistakes, so you just said that about me, i've never said that. if you read all my chairman's letters, we always talk about what we did wrong. always what we did wrong, how we can get better. no one in business doesn't make mistakes. so this is a terrible mistake. i'm not making a excuse for that, but i know we're going to make mistakes. when you're in this kind of job,
you hope they're small and few and far between. this one was way too big. >> but if this happened at jpmorgan chase, who really understood how to manage risk, what about all the other banks out there? if somebody else made a mistake like this, would we begin be talking about too big to fail and taxpayer bailouts? >> that's a good point. we support getting rid of too big to fail. and it's very important, we're not even going to remotely -- we're going to make money, we've good tons of capital. but we want the government to be able to take down a big company like jpmorgan. we think dodd/frank gave the government the ability to take down a big bank. and the name should be buried in disgrace. we need to put that back in the system and work with a regulator to try to get that back in the system. >> but you've been the most outspoken advocate, saying there's too much financial
regulation. that washington doesn't understand it. you opposed the volcker rule, that says a bank should not be betting its own money to perhaps enrich itself. it should only be trying to minimize losses. >> that's all completely untrue. if anyone wants to check the documents i write every year in my chairman's letter, i write myself win get help. we have supported 70% or so of dodd/frank. we support higher capital and liquidity. that's to make up for mistakes and problems. it's a tough economy. we support an oversight committee. we supported some of the compensation, the new compensation rules, that we follow most of them. we support a lot of it. >> why wouldn't the new regulation that's being talked about, changing the way banks do business, changing the way banks can quote/unquote, hedge their bets, why wouldn't that have stopped something like this? >> well, specifically, hedging should make your bank less risky. in this particular case, we made a terrible mistake. our biggest exposure are loans. you're not going to make banks
risk free, but with we agree with a lot of the standards that will make it safer. i think dodd/frank will accomplish that purpose. >> have you given regulators new ammunition against the banks? >> absolutely. this is a very unfortunate and inopportune to have made this mistake. >> but if the best of the best can't manage a risk like this, doesn't it tell you that the banking system is still, several years after the financial collapse, too risky? >> i don't think so. it's a question of size. this is not a risk that is life threatening to jpmorgan. this is a stupid thing that we never should have done, but we're still going to earn a lot of money this quarter. it's not like the company is jeopardized. we hurt ourselves and our credibility, yes. and we've got to fully expect and pay the price for that. >> so let me explain. that was the first part of our interview with mr. dimon that i did friday afternoon, after the big headlines came out, after the markets closed on friday. i had previously scheduled an interview with mr. dimon that i did with him earlier in the week, before all this news came
out, where we talked about some of other thing. once that happened and the news broke, i said to mr. dimon, i would like to do a second interview and that's what we did and you just saw that. this is a portion of the previous interview, during which we talk about the broader economy, the 2012 campaign, and america's lingering frustration with the big banks. >> a lot of americans are galled by the fact that the american worker still struggling and yet banks like yours are making a lot of money. your compensation, north of $20 million, has been published in reports. do you understand that frustration? >> sure. you know, people have ask meed what do i think about occupy wall street, and i've said, surprisingly, if the average american has the right to say that the institutions of america let me down, and that's true. i think if the average american says, that's predominantly washington and wall street broadly defined, i think that's true too. washington and wall street epicenter, i blame both of them, and there's a lot of policies and procedures. i think when you go beyond that and start to blame every single
politician or banker, that's not true. a lot of banks were important, not all the banks needed bailed out. wells fargo bought wachovia and did everything to help. that should be recognized too. but i understand that frustration, and i understand the frustration in equity. therefor i'm in favor of progressive taxation. >> the buffett rule? >> i don't understand the buffett rule, exactly. >> more taxes on capital gain. >> i think most people on wall street would be happy to have the bush tax cut go away and pay higher capital gains if they thought it was part of a plan to fix everything. i do believe that. that's why, in effect, taxes is not the right thing. as a matter of fact, i think we should appeal to people's better nature and say, you're well paid, you benefitted from this great country, you feed to give a little bit more for now to help lift the country up. i do understand the anger, but we need solutions.
finger-pointing, scapegoating, yelling and screaming, i've never seen -- >> what about accountability? there are stories about the bank fees, you know, atm fees being passed on to consumers. more regulation, well, it's going to be passed on to the consumer. you know, you hear it over and over again from critics who say, you know what, wall street brought down the economy. nobody's gone to jail. is that a misplaced criticism? >> no, there is a sense of there's been no -- an old testament justice here. the known was punished. look, with i think -- you can say these bad actors should be punished. go punish the bad actors. i think when you say that wall street, well, i think that's not true. not everything on wall street was bad. not all media is bad. i like you. you know, i trust you, actually. you know, not all politicians are bad. there are some fabulously smart, bright people in washington. so i don't like this attitude that's just, blame everybody. if you think something's wrong, go get those people that did something wrong and blame them. in the meantime, the rest of us should get together, hold hands, collaborate and get business and government together and fix the
problem. business can can't do it without collaboration from the government. >> let's talk about the economy, and probably the biggest political economic question of this campaign. is america better off now than it was four years ago? >> that's a really good question. can i give you a little historical context? >> america has the best economy in the world. best military,m best universities, our businesses are the envy of the rest of the world, i'm talking about small, medium, and large. widest and deepest, most transparent capital markets and the most hard-working entrepreneur workforce, entrepreneurial from steve jobs to factory floor. we have a pretty good -- we were with dealt a pretty good hand and the economy's getting stronger. it's very hard to measure versus four years ago. >> but you had made the point even if the economy is getting stronger, we could have been doing a lot better. how? >> yeah. so let me go back a little bit, because we had a crisis. we should acknowledge that. i mean, president bush and president obama took extraordinary measures, the old-fashioned american way. they did a lot of things that would have been done normally, but i think they stopped a system from getting dramatically worse.
that's true. i think in the last two years, and i can never prove this, the debt ceiling crisis, the failure to do anything on simpson/bowles. i think if you travel around, and you should ask people yourselves, this huge regulatory push, i'm not talking about in financial, just in general, the lack of fiscal certainty, tax certainty. i think those things have hurt the ability to grow. we've been growing, but i think it would be faster if we had gotten some of those basic things right. >> you supported president obama. you're a democrat, still? >> i would call myself a barely democrat, at this point. and i didn't support anyone last time around. i'm a new york fed board, i'm not allowed to. but i a democrat, yes. >> so what happened? why barely a democrat now? >> i've gotten disturbed at some of the democrats' anti-business behavior, the sentiment, the attacks on work ethic and successful people. and i think it's very counterproductive. so it doesn't mean i don't have their values. i want jobs. i want a more equitable society. i don't mind paying higher taxes. i don't mind lifting up our -- i do think we're our brother's
keeper. but i think attacking that which creates all things is not the right way to go about it. >> but do you think this has been an anti-business administration? >> we haven't seen that photo op in the rose garden of the president surrounded by you and others from the financial system and big industrialists and other ceos say, we're in a common cause here in a common effort to attack this recession. >> i think it's true to say we have a true collaboration and i really believe in true collaboration. to me, it's not democrat or republican. what is it that works to get america rolling again so the people can grow and get educated and have opportunity and jobs? that is not democrat or republican. any democrat or republican tells me they own that, they don't. that's a practical thing. i don't blame that on the president. although i do think that the democrats were so tough on the republicans that you've seen a little bit of that give back at this point. and i say you don't learn that at harvard business school, you learn that in the schoolyard. you beat up my buddy, i'll beat up yours. i wish they'd all put their
knives down and get back to work for the american public. >> and you've said that, there is a simple, political solution that would dramatically help the economy, and that is that debt reduction deal, the simpson/bowles commission, the president's debt reduction commission that he did not push, republicans opposed, and has gone nowhere. >> i don't know the inside story. it's hard for me to tell. i personally don't care. i wish they'd just split the difference in half at one point. but i hope the american public reads simpson/bowles. it is a fabulous road map for us to fix and improve social security, in a fair means tested. to have fair taxation that is progressive, but gets a lot of tax expenditures and entitlements. i think it will show we're doing the right thing and i think certainty around taxes and a more efficient tax system will help growth. i think you'll fix the future problem, you won't create a fiscal cliff now, you'll fix a lot of the other issues so we'll
we'll have to do something like that. >> you can see the full interview with jamie dimon on meetthepressnbc.com. joining me now is senator carl levin, the democrats' top watchdog on these matters, is chairman of the financial subcommittee, and andrew ross sorkin. welcome to both of you, senator levin in michigan and andrew here. senator, i want to start with you. as you react to what you heard from jamie dimon, where does this go next? >> it's going to the regulators. they're going to decide by july whether or not we're going to have strong regulations, as the law requires, or whether or not those regulations are going to be unrung by a massive lobbying effort from wall street to weaken the regulations, to put in a huge loophole into the regulations, which would allow the kind of risky bets to be made, which the law says should not be made.
we wrote a law. it was based, called the volcker rule at times. senator merkley and i wrote the language that ended up in the bill. and we prohibit the kind of bets that were made here. and there's too exceptions. one is hedging. we define hedging. and that's reducing risk. not increasing risk. and we also allow market making. and as you just heard from mr. dimon himself, this was not a risk-reducing activity that they engaged in. this increased their risk, and so we've got to be very, very careful that the regulators here are not undermined by this huge effort to weaken the rule, by putting in a huge loophole, which is called portfolio hedging. >> i'll get into that in just a second. do you accept jamie dimon's accountability for this? you know, elizabeth warren, who was the chairwoman of the congressional oversight panel on t.a.r.p. has called for him to resign his post on the new york
fed, while a lot of the regulatory regime is worked out. what do you say about that? >> i think the issue here is the power of the banks and whether or not we're going to regulate those banks and put a cop back on wall street. so i think this is a issue which is not involving personalities and should not involve personalities. so i don't get into that. the issue is whether we are going to stick with the law, as written, which will prevent us from bailing out banks again, and the only way to do that is make sure they don't take the kind of risks that we're taking. >> what price should be paid? jamie dimon said at the end of that interview, we should pay a price for that? what's the price? >> the price will be that they will lose their battle in washington to weaken the rule. that is the real price, in terms of past activities. that's in the hands of people who are assessing whether or not there was any criminal wrongdoing. that's still in the hands, as far as i know, of the justice department and the new york prosecutors. >> so advantage now washington
regulato regulators, right? you agree with him that he's created ammunition for regulators? >> yeah. but the real problem is the battle is not only between washington and wall street, which is what your opening statement said, is battle is inside of washington. some of the regulators, we believe, including the ones that are regulating the trades want to actually carry out the law as written, but some of the folks that regulate the banks, with such as the treasury, are willing to weaken the law. and the draft rule has the loophole in it. we're trying to reverse that draft rule and to make sure that it carries out the intent of the law as written. >> let me bring in andrew ross sorkin. andrew, help me understand this more broadly. this is complicated. why is it that americans should really be taking notice as the rest of wall street and washington is? >> well, the issue here, in terms of why we should really care, the true context is if jamie dimon, who's been exulted as one of the great, as you said in your interview with him, as one of the great risk managers,
can make a mistake, we've got a problem. because it means that other banks could also make a mistake. and they could potentially make a mistake on a much grander scale. and who gets left holding the bag if that happens? the taxpayers. that's what this is all about. the question is, are these institutions still too big to fail? and in many cases, actually, i would say that this scenario suggests that they may still be too big to manage. that's what we're working against, in trying to figure out, how can we deal with all of this complexity? the complexity still in the system. this was about credit default swaps. that's what these trades were. this was about betting with the company money. this was a bit of the casino element that we've been trying to pull back on since the crisis. >> and the risk in all of that, jamie dimon says, look, we're still making a lot of money this quarter. we manage a huge portfolio that has made a lot of money. jpmorgan chase is not in danger of collapse. it's just that we made a big mistake here. >> it's a big mistake. and by the way, i give him
enormous credit for coming out and saying mea culpa. i know a number of ceos in the world who you would have never heard about this from until the end of the quarter when they came out and said, we have a problem. that's good. but would other ceos know that? this was a $2 billion loss, which seems like a lot. it was actually -- but this actually underscores the point, it was a $100 billion bet. the firm had made a $100 billion bet that went down 2%. most people -- the stock market can go up and down 2% in a week, unfortunately, these days, but it becomes magnified because the bank is making such a big bet. and the question is, should the firms be able to make such a big bet? at this point, they thought they were hedging their risk, they thought they were reducing their risk and they were wrong. and others can be wrong too. >> final point, senator elevlev what assurance can you give the american people that if there is
the volcker rule that changes the kind of bets that can be made, that this is prevented? >> it will be prevented because these are the kind of bets that put us into the soup to begin with. if we can prevent these kind of bets from being made, we can avoid ever again having to bail out banks. we bailed out this bank. we had tens of billions of dollars that went to this bank before, but we don't want that to happen again. so the regulators have to be strong. we can't allow wall street to undermine the regulation that must be written if we're going to carry out the specific language, which is clear on this, in the volcker rule. >> jpmorgan has pointed out, they didn't need that bailout money, they took it over their opposition to it. but your point is, if another bailout has to occur, the stakes are enormous for the economy? >> for the economy and for the taxpayers, by the way. who paid the price of this recession? it's the taxpayers, because these banks and their deposits are backed up by the fdic. but it's also the economy as a whole, because we had to bail
out some of these banks. they can say they didn't want the money, some of them can say that, some of them desperately did need the money, but we can't allow it to happen again. >> quick point, andrew? >> we have said we've created all of these new laws to avoid the too big to fail problem. jamie dimon has said, i support winding down a failing bank. but the question is the size and scale. jpmorgan is not in trouble, but if they were to get in trouble, would the laws really work? that's big question mark. we will not know until we get there. that's where the anxiety lies. >> we'll leave it there. andrew ross sorkin, thank you so much. senator carl levin, thank you as well. coming up here, we'll have more reaction to jamie dimon's comments as we go through the hour. and an overview of the fall campaign. joining me for that, the chairman of the republican party, reince priebus. coming up a little bit later on, a special roundtable on the politics of same-sex marriage, after president obama's personal support on the issue this week. has anything really changed?
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falwell in virginia talking about the gay marriage debate. joining me now, the chair of the republican party reince priebus. good to have you back on the program. >> thank you. >> a lot has changed in the marriage debate over the past week because of the president sitting right where you're sitting now. with will this be a defining issue for your party in the fall? >> i'm not sure it's going to be a defining issue, but clearly for people in america where gay marriage is the number one issue, we clearly have two candidates. on the one hand, you have barack obama, who is now going to promote and perhaps crusade for this issue. we have mitt romney who's been consistent, and i think in line with most americans, which is that marriage ought to be defined between one man and one woman. for those people that this is their issue, they have a clear choice. but i happen to believe that, at the end of the day, however, this election is still going to be about the economy and whether or not this president fulfilled the promises that he made to the american people, which he
clearly didn't. >> do republicans tread carefully on this issue because there's been -- i've just been looking at the polling going back eight years. there's a 20-point swing in approval. a larger number of americans in favor of gay marriage than they were four years earlier. >> i don't doubt your polling. and i don't doubt calling 400 and 600 people and releasing these ruts. if you look at the 32 states across america where people are actually asked this question, do you believe marriage should be between one man and one woman, in every single case, including north carolina, the answer was yes. >> so you believe there's no question anymore that mitt romney can get social conservatives on board because of this issue? >> i don't know if it's because of this issue, but certainly social conservatives and people around the country that agree that marriage is a unique definition, an explanation of historical and religious union between a man and a woman, for those people and if that's their issue, this is a clear choice. mitt romney is the person who believes marriage is between a
man and a woman. >> let's talk about how different people are talking about this, including some republicans. senator rand paul is getting a lot of attention and criticism for a comment he made on friday. let me show you this. >> the president recently weighed in on marriage, and he said his views were evolving on marriage. call me cynical, but i wasn't sure that his is views on marriage could get any gayer. >> as chairman of the party, do you think that's appropriate? an appropriate way to talk about this issue? >> i don't know what rand, what he meant by that. i'm here to defend the republican party, and i can defend our nominee mitt romney. but here's what i do think. >> but you look at that particular comment, would you be pleased if republicans talk about it in that way? >> here's what i know. mitt romney is a gracious, caring person who believes that every individual in this country, including people who are gay, deserve the dignity and
respect that every american deserves, but that doesn't change the fact that we believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman. >> do you think the fight for gay marriage is a civil rights struggle? >> i don't think it's a matter of civil rights. i think it's a matter of whether or not we're going to adhere to something that's been historical and religious and legal in this country for many, many years. marriage has to have a definition. we just happen to believe it's between a man and a woman. >> for those people who do think it's a civil right, all those things you just said could have been said about jim crow's laws, except the religious difference. >> i think there's a big difference between people that have been murdered and everything else that have come with jim crow than marriage between a man and a man, a woman and a woman. here's what we agree on is that people in this country, no matter straight or gay, deserve dignity and respect. however, this doesn't mean it carries on to marriage. and i think that most americans agree that in this country, as a
legal and historical and religious union, marriage has to have the definition of one man and one woman. >> do you believe that gays and lesbians in america deserve equal rights? >> i think they deserve equal rights in regard to say, discrimination in the workplace, issues such as mitt romney has pointed out numerous times, hospital visitations. i think that for the sake of dignity and respect, sure. but if you're defining marriage as a civil right, then no. i don't believe that people who are same sex should be able to be married uppnder our laws. >> i want to ask you one more on this. this past week -- and i'll just read it here. you said as you said here, you believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. we, the republicans, ultimately believe you can't federalize that kind of mandate. and yet the standard bearer of the party, governor romney, wants to do just that. he does want to federalize it. he supports a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. >> first of all, i agree with the governor.
>> how can you -- >> because i know exactly -- >> did you misspeak? >> perhaps it was inartful, but here's the point. at the time we were debating president obama's incredible evolution of mind on this issue, as if the american people are sitting around as if the hourglass is being turned, and we can wait for president obama to evolve over his opinions on this particular issue. my point is, as we sit here today, under today's law -- we don't have a marriage amendment. but under today's law, president obama's decision in front of robin roberts isn't going to change anything. the fact of the matter is we don't have an amendment, and states across america are making this decision. >> but you said don't federalize it. the nominee of the party says federalize it, a constitutional ban. is that what the party believes? >> of course. and for the record -- >> it should be part of the platform? >> it is part of the platform. for the record, we do agree with the marriage amendment, but as we sit here today, we don't have a federal mandate -- >> you'd like to see one is the point? >> sure, i would.
but here's the point. we're talking about this issue now for an entire eight minutes on an incredible show on sunday morning across america while millions of people are out of work, our debt is going in the wrong direction, this president hasn't fulfilled his promises that will put our economy back on track. those are the issues that people care about. when i go across this country, people are filling their gas half full -- their tanks half full of gas. they can't afford the groceries. this president hasn't fulfilled his promises. and here we go again. down this path. we concede. we have a different view on marriage. that's an issue that, if people want to vote on it, they'll have a clear choice. but what really is going on in this country is we have a president who made a lot of promises. he's in love with the sound of his own voice, but he can't follow through on a promise. that's what we want to see for america. >> let me ask you another important economic question. you saw jamie dimon on the program earlier talk about regulation, talk about the mistake that was made earlier by this trading bet and huge loss.
governor romney and the republican party's position is to repeal dodd-frank, which is financial reform. in light of the losses on wall street this week, you think we need less financial regulation rather than more? >> i think we need less. the fact of the matter is dodd-frank didn't work. the reality is we've got about five to ten banks in this country that on our gdp, those five to ten banks' assets make up a huge majority of this country's gdp. that's an issue. i do agree with too big to fail mentality is a problem, but i don't think dodd-frank fixed anything. i think they made things worse. >> so you're satisfied with the way wall street operates, with the kinds of bets that were taken by jpmorgan chase that led to this loss. you don't think regulation can remedy it? >> dodd-frank didn't remedy it. >> carl levin says the volcker rule, which would govern how
they use their money to make these kinds of trades to hedge their bets, it would address that. >> i'm not a financial expert or an expert on s.e.c., but i can tell you that this president talks a lot about regulation on wall street. he takes millions and millions of dollars from wall street. what he's done over the last 3 1/2 years with a republican senate -- levin had control of the senate on this issue. and they had had a democratic control of the house. so they had the democrats in control of the house, the democrats in control of the senate, they had the president in the white house, and they didn't control any of these things. so they've made things worse. >> chairman priebus, a lot to talk to you about as this campaign goes on. we certainly hope to have you back. >> and happy mother's day to my wife. >> well done. all right. coming up here, the vice president certainly put the gay marriage debate on the map. on this program and for the week, the president came out with his support. the big question, as we've been talking about here, what has actually changed? what will the impact be on the fall campaign? our roundtable will take on the
question. the former mayor of san francisco, now lieutenant governor of california, gavin francisco, now lieutenant gover[ male announcer ] gavin citi turns 200 this year. in that time there've been some good days. and some difficult ones. but, through it all, we've persevered, supporting some of the biggest ideas in modern history. so why should our anniversary matter to you? because for 200 years, we've been helping ideas move from ambition to achievement. and the next great idea could be yours. ♪
>> uh, doy. it's not fair, okay? i was the first one who said it should be legal, but now you're the one getting all the credit. >> that's not true. >> oh, yeah? oh, really? then why are you all dressed up? >> i'm going to a gala with lady gaga and elton john. >> oh, see? that should be me. vice presidents never get to go anywhere. >> joe, come on. you should be proud of what you did on "meet the press." you're a great vice president, joe. >> that, of course, "saturday night live's" treatment of the dynamics, shall we say, after the vice president assumes the dynamic of the white house. the politicalround table is here with me. president of the american conservative union, al cardenas. lieutenant governor of california, democrat gavin newsom. the host of msnbc's "hardball" and the chris matthews show, as well as author of the book, "jack kennedy, elusive hero,"
chris matthews. and columnist for "the washington post," jonathan capehart and kathleen parker. chris matthews, we could certainly say there's been palace intrigue. look at the cover of "the new york yorker" coming out with the pillars in a rainbow. i think this captures it, which is the disarray the president got out ahead of himself and forced the president to do something that they say he was going to do. >> the stunning thing, david, is they want us to know about the friction. all the staffers all leaking out how angry they are, people identified as top campaign aides, people in the vice president's office, people in the president's office, all this intrigue publicly being dished out to us. why do they want us to know they're angry at the vice president? >> that the vice president apologized to the president. >> if they're angry at him for being impulsive, why are they being impulsive? why are they acting out on their anger? just be professional and say, well, we'll move on. i don't get why they want this spat to be public. >> here's the president talking
to robin roberts of abc about this issue. >> i have already made a decision that we were going to take this position before the election and before the convention. he probably got out a little bit early, but out of generosity of spirit. >> so, gavin newsom, lieutenant governor, you're a political leader. >> as lieutenant governor, i'm sensitive on that issue. but do you believe the president was really going to change his mind? >> i don't know. i honestly don't know. i agree with chris. i don't understand the process here. i don't understand the thinking except i'm proud of the president. i'm proud he stood up on principle. i'm proud he's on the right side of history. and i'm proud he did it during an election because it took an extraordinary amount of courage. now the question is whether or not this was a good political decision or a perilous political decision. regardless, on principle, i'm honored and proud. >> let's get into it. >> i'm frankly surprised that the country's surprised that this issue's come up in a way
that's taken us this way. the press for gay marriage when he ran for the state senate in illinois in '96. he kind of retreated from that position when he ran for president in 2008. senator mccain chose not to deal with it. it wasn't something he was comfortable with. but the campaign knew there was a change of position. and after the election when he dealt with doma the way he did. >> defense of marriage act. >> there wasn't any surprise he felt this way. frankly, he owed it to the american people to say it sooner rather than later. i think this whole spat is a lot to do about nothing. >> there's the symbolic importance, jonathan, about the president being the first in u.s. history to say, i support gay marriage. yes, he did it after the vice president, and we'll get into that, but the reality of this is the president is not making this a federal case. he's saying, i'm for it, but i'm going to let the states handle this. >> because the states have
always been in the case of vetting the qualifications for marriage. it wasn't until congress got into the mix bypassing the so-called defense of marriage act, that you had the federalization of marriage. look, this idea that the president is punting to the states, i think, is wrong. the states, as i said, they set the qualifications, but they also say who can marry. ultimately, it's the federal constitution that judges whether states have gone too far, whether they have denied equal protection under the law, and it is clear that the president believes that constitutionally everyone should have the right to marry whether they're heterosexual or same sex. i would have to say, to disagree with the governor here, gavin newsom, i do think the president was going to change his mind. i think he was going to do it sooner rather than later because he was in an untenable position. the untenable position being that his words were not matching his deeds. if you look at the president's record, as you said, he had a very pro-gay record, in particular when it came to
same-sex marriage, it looked like he supported, but he would never say the words. ultimately, because of what happened here on this set a week ago, those words and deeds match, and you have people now who are going to benefit from that. >> let me get kathleen in here about what's actually changed. >> i do feel like i'm on "the dating game," by the way, and i've eliminated several of you already. what was your question? >> what's changed? >> i don't know that -- obviously, it's symbolically significant for the president to say he's in favor of same-sex marriage. we knew that he did. we knew once upon a time that mitt romney did for that matter. the great irony, of course, as you point out, he did punt back to the states, and that doesn't really help the movement to codify same-sex marriage in a national way because already we have 30 states that have amended their constitutions to prohibit it. so i think it was actually fairly easy to say, look, i've
evolved and then let -- >> you don't buy that? >> no. it's comfortable. >> let me amend my comment. >> answer the question. >> i just want to amend what i said to include -- i think everybody's made fun, or the republicans have made fun of the word evolving. i think that's the perfect word to describe this conversation because the american people are evolving on this issue, and increasingly they're coming on the side of same-sex marriage as being the right side of history. >> i don't necessarily agree, kathleen, with that conclusion. >> this is the young people. by the way, in another generation, this is not going to be an issue. >> is at the same time, young people have remarkably changed their points of view in life from the time they're in their 20s to the time they get to be 32 and have two kids at home. >> that's for sure. >> so maybe. you might be right. we'll see how this stands the test of time. >> if you're a gay person, i
don't see how you can't feel something strongly about this. for the first time ever the leader of your country at an idealistic level -- he isn't saying he can make this law. he's saying what he believes -- is with you. he's saying you're a human being with the rights of all human beings. i think it's up there with the first african-american president being president. it's a statement of who we are. >> it's more than symbolic in that respect. millions of people's lives were affirmed, not just gays and lesbians, but their loved ones, their brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and the like. there's real substance. their lives were validated. these were people who were afraid to tell folks who they are, and now they have a president behind them. >> you're for marriage equality. you're the mayor of san francisco. we have the video. you were giving licenses to marry before it was lawful. >> 2004. >> before it was lawful. you believe in equality, actual marriage equality, not viewpoints. equality has not been advanced by him. >> you're absolutely right. he's gone from the 90-yard dash,
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we're back with more from the round table. everybody has been talking even from the commercial break. here's the headline from omaha, an omaha newspaper, the president how faces, "risk versus reward for obama." if you're mitt romney, you've got social conservatives on board now because of the president's decision? >> social conservatives were going to revolve to his side anyway, the question was to what degree of passion. clearly, it's a passion issue right now in a major way. social conservatives believe that marriage is a traditional event between a man and a woman. some do it for moral issues. some do it because of deeply held religious beliefs. and some purely because they think a family should constitute -- it should be constituted by a man and woman raising their children. we never viewed it through a political lens before. it was more viewed as a deeply held religious belief. this puts it in a political context, and this is like the religious arguments from the '80s. you're going to have a revival of social conservatives like you haven't seen in 20 years in this
race. and i think republicans would prefer to talk about the economy and to talk about jobs. i believe social conservatives are going to consider this a need. >> does the polling story for romney tie into this in any way? >> i think the idea of a young kid leading a brigade of kids to look for the kid they thought was gay, putting him down on the ground, humiliating the kid. >> romney says that was in no way denying that. >> but he's not denying the incident. >> you can't extrapolate from an incident that happened that long ago. going back to high school. what did he do in kindergarten? did he hog the red crayon? it's a bad instance. i'm not going to dismiss this as unimportant, it was important. but to take something from high school and extrapolate that to something that can be applied to the presidential election. >> is there anyone here who doesn't remember high school? >> one thing about gay marriage. >> that's something i did remember, and that's for sure.
that's more substantive. >> the political impact of the gay marriage debate in the fall. this is not 2004 when the white house used it. >> it's a very different time. we've moved -- i don't know there's another issue generally that's moved this fast in such a short period of time in the last 24 months. this has moved 10%. it's a much safer time than in 2004. >> except for the ballot box. >> but that's always the case when you subject the rights of a minority to the whims of a majority every single time the minority loses. i mentioned loving versus state of virginia. 70% of americans opposed interracial marriage in 1967. you can imagine submitting in r interracial marriage to the ballot back then. from my perspective, it's political courage. he's on the right side of history. we now have someone taking us back to even oppose civil unions. >> is this about getting back to hope and change in 2008 for those supporters of obama who
might have been disappointed? >> i think a lot of supporters of the president are buoyed by what he did. let's remember leadership is about doing the hard thing when it's neither easy or convenient. this is not a slam dunk for the president. siding with gay and lesbian americans who are raising children across the country, who are doing so at a disadvantage because of the tax code, because of local laws, because of federal laws, their president, president of the united states, came out and said that he supports their right to wed. he supports their right to be fully engaged and involved in the american dream. that's an important thing that we shouldn't forget. >> i've got to make that the last word. we're out of time. this debate will certainly continue. thank you all very, very much. that is all for today. we will be back next week. happy mother's day to yours, to mine, and